Outlandish Hair Grasses
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
Cappuccino Sedge(Carex tenuiculmis 'Cappuccino')
"He sat on the stool in his shirt, closing his eyes in momentary relaxation as I unbraided his hair. He'd worn it clubbed in a tight queue for riding, bound up for the last three days; I ran my hands up into the warm fiery mass as it unraveled from its plait, and the loosened waves of it spilled cinnamon and gold and silver in the firelight as I rubbed the pads of my fingers gently into his scalp." -- from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 7
One of the common names for the plant shown above is "New Zealand hair grass." I thought of that as I was watering my garden the other morning. Seeing this grass glowing in the sun - all those beautiful strands of red and gold - reminded me of Jamie Fraser's hair. (That's the thing about being an OUTLANDER fan - pretty soon everything in your life seems to relate to a plot line or character from one of the books.)
My next thought was, of course, to wonder: what plant would best represent the notorious "Claire hair?"
Now before I go too far with this, I have to explain that although we often refer to these hair-like plants as grasses, they really aren't. To be botanically correct, I have to tell you that they are sedges. To tell the difference, grasp a leaf and run your fingers along it. Sedges have edges, meaning that their leaves are triangular, have micro-serrations along the margins, and feel rough to the touch. Grasses have joints and the stems are hollow. Ornamental grasses typically have showy flowers. Sedges produce small, insignificant, burr-like "fruits." These ripen into seedpods that cling to clothes and animal fur and, like another OUTLANDER plant, Forget-me-nots, "hitchhike" to new locations.
OK, back to Claire's "disreputable" locks. The first plant that came to mind for her was another in the Carex clan, called 'Frosted Curls.' But I quickly ruled that one out because it is pale-colored. A bit too blonde, I thought.
Red Hook Sedge (Uncinia unciniata)
Then I found this one. I love this plant because of its rich color palette, combining red and mahogany and light green. It is utterly unruly with tendrils that go every which way. It may not be the ultimate in Claire Hair - I'm going to keep looking - but for now she's a verra fine choice.
So now we have Jamie hair and Claire hair. What about Frank? The image I have in mind is that Frank has black, straight hair. The sedges I am familiar with have a wide range of colors including pale greens, green with white or yellow variegations, and bronzes, but I have never seen one that has black foliage. Still, there are over 2,000 plants in the Carex clan, so some research was in order.
Lo and behold, I found one that fits. It not only has black-ish foliage, its name is Carex buchananii 'Frank's Hair!' Unfortunately, I couldn't find a source for this plant in the US, but you can see a photo of it here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see it on the left side.
Even though 'Frank's Hair' sedge isn't widely available, there is another good plant choice for Frank. If you want to create an OUTLANDER Hair Garden, consider honoring him with black mondo grass (which isn't a "true" grass, either, being more of a distant relative of Lily of the Valley). The green blades you see above are new growth; as they age, they will turn black.
Can you think of other OUTLANDER characters whose tresses remind you of a particular plant? If so, please share your ideas in the comments. Thank you.